What Has Christianity Done for the World?
Positive Effects of the Christian World View
Religion has been blamed for much that is wrong in this world if you would believe the atheists and agnostics. Christianity has often been criticized as being divisive and the cause of much strife. Barna Research reveals that only 6% of non-Christians between the ages of 16 and 29 have a good impression of the Christian faith and within that same age group only 3% have a favorable view of Evangelicals. While I am not condoning any evil that those people have done that espouse the name of Christ, I would suggest that Christianity has done far more good than most people realize. And if Christ is who He claims to be, we should expect no less.
Contrary to popular belief, Christianity is far from an authoritarian and repressive faith that promotes fanaticism and religious warfare, while trying to stop science and free inquiry. The interesting thing is that the very freedom of speech which allows me to write these words is by and large a by-product of the Christian worldview.
From the earliest days Gods people have had hearts of compassion. The early Jerusalem church appointed deacons to care for the poor, the widows and all those who were in need. (Acts 6:1). Indeed James, in his epistle said that:
"Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in distress, and to keep oneself unstained from the world."
Of course, this is not unique to the New Testament. The God of the Bible revealed many times in the Old Testament that He cared for the widows and orphans, those unable to take care of themselves in the society in which they lived. And God expects his people of all ages to do the same. Indeed, many of His people have taken on the challenge.
I can choose from many areas in order to show how Christianity has literally changed the world for the better. Morality and ethics, human rights, health care, art, music, government, literature, social welfare and reform, families, Science, law, economics, education and the very sanctity of human life itself have been forever affected in every society in which the Christian religion has taken root. I can only comment on a few in this article, or it might become a book.
I. Human Rights
Christ's teachings on love, compassion and doing unto others what you would have others do unto you are central to an understanding of how His people have been such agents for change. Jesus' teachings coupled with the Judeo-Christian belief of man created in the image of God have revolutionized thinking in the world as we know it. For example, infanticide and abortion were common in the Greco-Roman culture and many other ancient cultures. Both of these were condemned by early Christian literature and Bishop Basil of Caesarea outlawed infanticide in 374. Pedophilia was unashamedly practiced by both the Greek and Roman cultures. Today, we call that child molestation, widely due to the influence of Christ's followers.
The Roman gladiatorial games were spectacles of horrible brutality. Most people, whether Christian or not, would recoil at watching them today. That is due to the idea of the sacredness of human life, which lead later emperors to ban these once popular games. Also, the concept of the eating of human flesh and human sacrifice was once widespread in many pagan cultures. Now it is almost completely a thing of the past due to the value that Christianity has placed on human beings created in Gods image.
The status of women has also been elevated because of the Christian worldview. In ancient times, women were little more than property. Wives were not allowed to speak in public in ancient Greece. Baby girls were expendable and often killed or left to die. The New Testament concept of all being one in Christ, as well as the concept of husband and wife being a picture of Christ and His Church, have forever altered man's view of women. Nowhere else, before the Christian Scriptures, would you find the concept of sacrificially loving your wife.
Because of the teachings of Christ and how he treated women with respect, He raised the dignity of women to heights previously not thought of. Christ befriended women and even talked with them in public. This was not acceptable for the Jewish man to do. The early church gave women freedoms unheard of in the Jewish and Roman cultures surrounding them.
II. Charity and Compassion
I have already mentioned the early Jerusalem Church and its giving to the poor, widows and the sick. But that has continued to this day. The Romans thought that helping the sick was a sign of weakness. The early Christians saw it as doing it to Christ Himself. And they saw the saving of lives as another way to save souls as well.
By the 6th century A.D., most of the larger cities of Christendom had hospitals. And they were the first known voluntary charitable institutions. Later in history, the first Protestant hospital was built at Kaiserwerth in Germany. It is at this institution that Florence Nightingale received her training. The story of Florence Nightingale is still, to this day, an inspiration to any person who would pursue the noble profession of nursing.
John Henry Dunant was a Christian, who with four associates, founded the American Red Cross in 1864. Dunant also negotiated the Geneva convention for the care and treatment of wounded soldiers and was the co-winner of the first Nobel Prize for Peace in 1901.
Other Bible-believing Christians in the 18th and 19th centuries were responsible for much good. They tackled a wide variety of social issues such as illiteracy, the abolition of slavery, adult education, treatment of alcoholics and prison reform. It was in 1844 that the Young Men's Christian Association was formed, followed by the YWCA ten years later. And in 1865 a London minister, William Booth left his pastorate to take his message to the streets to reach the poor, the homeless, the destitute and the hungry. Today the Salvation Army is in 106 nations around the world.
Jesus was not discriminatory in who he taught. Both men and women came under his instruction. And later in history, it was bishops who taught things like doctrine, rhetoric, logic, math, geometry, music, grammar and astronomy. During the Reformation men like Luther and Calvin advocated universal state-sponsored education. It was Luther who told authorities that children should be compelled to attend school. Now the Western world has this concept in their laws.
Benedictine monks were the people who started the universities in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. And some of the most respected universities in the world today began as Christian institutions: Harvard and Yale for example. The interesting thing is that all the way up through 1932, out of 182 colleges in the United States, 168 of them were founded by Christian denominations.
It is very interesting that modern Science as we know it today would not be possible if not for the Christian worldview and yet many people who espouse atheistic evolutionary philosophy want to use Science to destroy religion. For 1500 years Aristotle's thinking was dominant among philosophers and Scientists. He believed that true knowledge was only acquired through the deductive process of the mind. He felt that the inductive method, used by Science today, required manual work in a lower realm. It was Christian philosophers that linked rationality with the empirical, inductive method. It was their belief that predictability and order could only be achieved in a universe made and ordered by a rational Being.
Also, if you look at the pagan world, earlier in history, they believed that there were spirits living in and through nature, controlling it. The Christian view is that God created the universe and is separate from it. They also took their understanding from the Genesis account of creation that man was given dominion over creation and were Gods representatives to care for the world.
All of this lead to the distinctively Christian approach to reality that allowed the Scientific community to develop Scientific laws. If the universe is governed rationally and predictably, then there must be laws man can discover.
Thank God for Christianity
As I have stated earlier, these are only a few of the contributions made by the followers of Jesus Christ. There is no getting around the fact that this world is a better place because of Jesus. And that cannot be plausibly denied by the most ardent of atheists or agnostics.
Just check out the 2000 year track record which continues even up to this present day in which we live. There are people out there changing the world because they believe to be true Jesus' claims to be the eternal Son of God, who loved us so much that he was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for us on the cross. And their belief in the risen Lord compels them to acts of service and self-sacrifice.
The world has yet to see the wonderful differences still to come due to the visit of the Son of God to this earth more than two millennia ago. That is because He tells us that He will come again. This indeed will be the greatest change for the better this world has ever known.
© 2011 Jeff Shirley